As Valentine’s Day 2024 approaches, the newest romantic comedy offering is Prime Video’s Puppy Love – a charming, yet unremarkable addition to the beloved genre. Despite the cheesy and slightly off-key title, this is a story of two socially-awkward individuals who meet due to their pets. He struggles with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), while she has no reservations about privacy or personal space. What are the chances that they will spend time together and fall in love along the way? This trope has been excessively exploited, and Puppy Love contributes very little to infuse any novelty into it. (Also read: Upgraded movie review: Camila Mendes leads this spirited yet formulaic romantic comedy)
Premise of Puppy Love
Directed by Nick Fabiano and Richard Alan Reid, Puppy Love commences with Max Stevenson (Grant Gustin), a visibly distressed man entangled in his own OCD-related issues and on the brink of his next breakdown. His therapist is of little help, suggesting a ‘mirroring’ technique, and then recommends he adopt a dog from a shelter. He discovers Chloe, and they share enjoyable moments together. He does most of the talking while she listens quietly. What more could Max ask for?
Simultaneously, Nicole (Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Lies) is a commitment-phobe of significant proportions, struggling to escape her family’s scrutiny and avoid being seen as a complete failure. Her career in real estate is sufficient, but the impulsive Nicole adopts a stray dog rummaging around her apartment’s dumpster and names the pup Channing Tatum.
By chance, both Nicole and Max match on Bumble and meet at the park with their pets. Things go awry rather quickly, as Max becomes ill after consuming the spicy chicken she suggested. To make matters worse, their dogs become overly intimate with each other. They end the day on a sour note, vowing never to meet again.
Puppy Love gains momentum when Max discovers that Chloe is pregnant, prompting Nicole to reluctantly agree to co-parent their dogs during the pregnancy. If you’ve been following the story so far, you already know where the remainder of the story is headed.
The issue does not lie in the predictability but in the underdeveloped storytelling. Puppy Love could have delved into and fleshed out these two characters along the way; delving into Max’s origins of OCD, his fascination with collecting movie artifacts, or even his professional life, yet the writing reduces his challenges to clichéd moments that do not offer a realistic portrayal of living with such a serious condition. Nicole does not even have a significant trajectory to make her motives appear any less tone-deaf or inconsiderate after spending so much time with Max. Their romance never truly resonates, even as Puppy Love takes its time to reach that point in the first place.
Puppy Love feels too tidy, overly contrived, and much too cautious for its own good. It flirts with a well-meaning and intriguing concept but fails to infuse the right amount of passion into it. For a change, it brought to mind Silver Linings Playbook, and how explosively volatile those characters felt in their element. Is there room for such intrigue and intensity in Puppy Love? The answer is no.